When it comes to the subject of sex, indie rock is historically frigid. For Cory Murchy, that’s such a turnoff.
“That’s a funny thing about indie rock,” says Murchy, bassist for Seattle progressive indie rock mainstays Minus the Bear. “Rock & roll is all about sex, all about getting it on, and all those illicit things that we’re not supposed to talk about.”
Throughout their nearly decade-long recording career, Minus the Bear’s brand of rock – usually described as falling somewhere between math and prog – hasn’t always seemed carnally fueled. But lyrically, the band has made a career out of exploring those illicit things with thinly veiled foreplay more at- tuned to soul music than a genre predicated on a more cerebral take on relationships.
“It’s a big faux pas in indie-rock culture and in indie rock itself – you’re not supposed to talk about sex,” Murchy says. However, the tradition of singing about sex “goes far, far, far back – way back to the blues and all of that,” he says. “From the beginning of talking about sex, people were singing about it.”
While known for their libido, never before has the band achieved a sound that matched their favorite topic as they have on the veritable sex jams found on their latest record Omni – chief among them the catchy lead single “My Time.”
Even without lyrics like “Turn off the lights / touch me in the dark”, “we’re making moves so blind” and “you taste like sweet wine / sweat rolls down your thigh,” the song seems to draw more from Hall and Oates than the math rock the band built upon when it formed in 2001.
“I’d say it’s definitely the oddball on the record, but that said, it’s still very Minus the Bear,” says Murchy. “On that song in particular, Dave doesn’t even play the guitar; he plays an omnichord [an electronic instrument first made and popularized in the early ’80s]. He started bashing it out with an omnichord and it just made sense. There was no one in the room saying, ‘You’ve got to pick up a guitar. We need some chugga-chugga.
“There hasn’t really been a genre or a group of music that we’ve really tried to adhere to. [We play] whatever sounds good to us or makes us smile at the end of the day. I’ve been listening to a lot of older ’60s and ’70s bands that were experimental not only with music, but sound. We’re not like, ‘We’ve got to be an emo band, we’ve got to be a punk rock band.’ It’s all about being a band and just making music and trying to bring all those influences together. So yeah, sometimes it sounds like a weird ’80s pop song.”
A weird ’80s pop song that may not be suitable for children.
“Music is there to tell a story,” he says. “I think [avoiding sex in lyrics] is a product of the ’90s and the whole grunge scene and it’s just transferred over. I think rock & roll is all about sex. It’s totally valid. It’s fair game. It’s definitely a part of music. Great things came out of the grunge movement in the early ’90s and late ’90s as far as women’s rights and equality and everything, but [sex] doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”
Murchy says the band takes flack for its lyrics from folks who, for whatever reason, think it does have to be negative.
“People are always going to have a problem with something, and there are those people that have a problem with that and try to use that as a lightning rod or whatever,” says Murchy. “We’re not out to try and change everyone’s opinion. There are other things to talk about.”
In the case of Minus the Bear, however, why would they want to?
“[Music] is about communicating with people, and one of the things that people have to realize is that sex is a big part of life and we just haven’t shied away from that.”
In other words, it’s time for indie rock to grow up.
“We’re all over 30 years old, we’re all 30-something-year-old men, and we started out in our 20s touring, and most of us have long-term relationships,” says Murchy.
“I hate to say we’ve matured, but there’s a little bit of that going on. I think becoming an adult is really kind of nice. It feels good.”
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